Have you ever experienced back pain?
If so, you’re in the majority. Back pain is one of the most common conditions we see in medicine—it’s estimated that 80% of adults experience back pain at some point. In most cases, back pain resolves on its own over time, but this is not always the case, and when back pain becomes persistent it can be scary.
Pain science research has helped us understand back pain far better than we did 10-15 years ago, and there’s reason to be hopeful as this new information begins to become practice for some health care practitioners.
As with anything “new”, change is scary, and we humans don’t like it one bit! So, it’s going to take time for health care and medical practice to catch up with science.
Even though the majority of health care professionals have not yet embraced the latest research when it comes to pain science and pain education, it doesn’t mean you have to be in left in the dark and miss out on being in the know!
We’ve been indoctrinated to think of pain as something that can be explained by scans and images. This is not the case. Here are a few things that may surprise you about back pain:
• Getting older is not a cause of back pain.
Age is NOT a cause.
Research does not support the widespread belief that age can cause or worsen back pain.
• Backs do not wear out with normal, everyday activities like bending.
Bending is OK…really?
For many years, we physios taught patients “safe lifting” to “protect the back”. It turns out this was a load of hogwash and not based on the evidence. I feel rather badly about all the people I taught to lift with a “straight back” when the evidence shows that loading, bending and moving the spine is healthy. Just as weight training makes the muscles stronger, these activities are not only safe for the back when reintroduced gradually and progressed appropriately, but also beneficial.
• Pain with movement or exercise does not correlate to causing harm.
I know, right?
How many times have you heard, “if it hurts, don’t do it!”
Persistent pain causes the tissues around the spine to become more sensitive, a bit like an overly sensitive alarm system. The pain you may experience during movement indicates how sensitive you are, not how much damage you have. Even though movement might not feel great at first, exercise and movement are one of the best things you can do to improve your back, and having a knowledgeable professional to guide you through the process can makes a big difference.
• Education and understanding about pain can greatly help reduce symptoms. The more you know about how pain works, the better you feel. The more you come to realize how much control you have over your symptoms, the better you feel. Pain is a complex, multi-factor experience and cannot be explained by a “diagnosis”.
The bottom line is our beliefs about pain have to change, and the health care system has to implement up to date evidence-based practices, but this is going to take time.
Why wait until your doctor or health provider decides to embrace change? You can find out what recommendations research has for us in terms of pain interventions as soon as March 22nd, when I’m offering a short 90-minute virtual workshop Know Pain, Know Gain.
This workshop is designed to be a quick introduction into the world of pain science education so you can decide for yourself if there’s something in it for you.
I look forward to a lively and interactive experience as we challenge our own beliefs and practices around the topic of pain!